27 October 1797

William Godwin to Mary Hays, [Little John Street], 27 October 1797.1

You appear to me not to attend properly to the distinction between intimacy & mutual esteem. It is with some reluctance I separate myself from you as to the former. But I am not of a temper to support an intercourse when all my words & actions are to be tortured, & misconstrued into tyranny. If I know anything, I now that those very things which you have characterised by that opprobrious name, flowed solely from kindness & singleness of heart.

So much for intimacy. Of your esteem I believe it is not in your power to deprive me. As little do I wish to withhold mine from you. There is therefore no reason why we should avoid each other. All I object to, is long & confidential conversations, which, as I have said before, you have precluded, by poisoning the very springs of confidence. I shall be gratified, if you will call on me to receive the trifles that have been mentioned. There is no reason in the world why you should not call, as often as you wish, to see the children, or to see me, when you shall be desirous of hearing of my health or prosperity. There are not a great many persons in whose peace I more interest myself than I do in yours, though you, by the jaundice in your own eye, have compelled me to put a curb upon myself as to the means, most obviously in my power, of contributing to it.

The question you start of your manuscript2 is of a different nature. Friendly criticism is beyond most things a matter of a confidential nature. It is with caution & trepidation I ever venture upon it. I am nothing in that field, if not perfectly free. After what has passed between us upon this occasion, I should watch my words, & be perplexed beyond the limits between honesty & the fear of misconstruction. I should torment myself in vain, & I cannot attempt the task.

W Godwin

Oct. 27. 1797.

1 MS Abinger c. 22, fols 78-79, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Brooks, Correspondence 467-68; Clemit, Letters 1.267-68. According to his dairy, Godwin had met Hays (not by design) at the Fenwicks the previous day.

2 Most likely this is the manuscript of Hays's next novel, The Victim of Prejudice (1799).